The Trilateral Commission is a private organization, established to foster closer cooperation among the United States, Europe and Japan. It was founded in July 1973 at the initiative of David Rockefeller, who was Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations at that time. The Trilateral Commission is widely seen as an off-shoot of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Speaking at the Chase Manhattan International Financial Forums in London, Brussels, Montreal, and Paris, Rockefeller proposed the creation of an International Commission of Peace and Prosperity in early 1972 (which would later become the Trilateral Commission). At the 1972 Bilderberg meeting, the idea was widely accepted, but elsewhere, it got a cold reception. According to Rockefeller, the organization could “be of help to government by providing measured judgment.”
Zbigniew Brzezinski, a professor at Columbia University and a Rockefeller advisor who was a specialist on international affairs, left his post to organize the group along with:
Henry D. Owen (a Foreign Policy Studies Director with the Brookings Institution)
George S. Franklin
Robert R. Bowie (of the Foreign Policy Association and Director of the Harvard Center for International Affairs)
Gerard C. Smith (Salt I negotiator, Rockefeller in-law, and its first North American Chairman)
Marshall Hornblower (former partner at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering)
William Scranton (former Governor of Pennsylvania)
Edwin Reischauer (a professor at Harvard)
Max Kohnstamm (European Policy Centre)
Other founding members included Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker, both eventually heads of the Federal Reserve system.
Funding for the group came from David Rockefeller, the Charles F. Kettering Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.